Thu 4 Jan 2018
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DINING FOR SMILES EVENT PREPARATIONS
With the goal to repair children’s broken smiles by providing free comprehensive treatment for cleft lip and palate anomalies in under-served areas of the world, Alliance for Smiles, founded by six members of the San Francisco Rotary Club, Board member Carl Vahl (Chef Calle) hosted a gourmet, six-course dinner to raise funds for this exceptional cause at the Enchanted Valley Inn. And SmokinLicious® was right there to lend our support. We’re going to provide you with a behind-the-scenes look at what goes in to preparing a six-course gourmet meal featuring wood-fired fresh Canadian salmon and wood-fired leg and loin of lamb.
Early Fire Start
For SmokinLicious®, set up is crucial for a long event that has the menu relying on the perfection of the wood-fired proteins. That means ensuring plenty of charwood and wood chunks are at the ready. We keep two chimney starters loaded with charwood to keep a steady flow of hot coals going into the grills. Since this event’s gourmet menu featured four foods to be wood fired – lamb, salmon, red peppers, and Brussels sprouts – it’s necessary to get the fires going early so they can burn down to hot coal beds. That is the key to successful wood-fire cooking. Don’t cook over flames, only hot coals that will radiate heat throughout the grill.
The Wood-Fired Foods
For this Dining for Smiles event preparations, we used a kettle grill and small charcoal grill from Stôk®. Our wood selections included Ash, Sugar Maple, and Wild Cherry to compliment the Chef’s fresh ingredients. At the ready, digital thermometers, fire gloves, fire extinguisher, ash can, and coal shovel.
Chef Calle picked up some sensational rib loins and a leg of lamb for the event. Since the leg of lamb is the thickest, it will go on the grill about 45 minutes ahead of the loins. We will maintain a temperature of 300° to 325°F. My set up includes using a fine steel screen over the traditional charcoal grate to keep the hot coals from falling through. I also use a disposable drip pan that contains a bottle of Syrah wine, rough cut onion, garlic, and mint leaves. The leg of lamb will cook over that drip pan so I can collect the drippings for use later. I probe the leg of lamb as I want to pull the lamb at 123°F internal temperature and rest it in an insulated blanket to the finished temperature of 130°F.
The fishmonger cleaned and gutted the whole 12lb. Canadian salmon but Chef still needs to cut off the gills and fins, and scale the fish. After that, time for the fun stuffing! With fresh herbs, lemon slices, and olive oil, this is ready for the grill. We do make about four slices into the skin of the fish to allow water to steam out otherwise the fish would shrink. Yes, it is a big fish for our kettle grill but we’ll get it done! Once on the grill, we will leave the salmon untouched for about an hour before we flip and add some orange butter to the skin and insides.
After cooking the lamb for approximately 2-1/2 hours, to an internal temperature of 123°F, it is removed and wrapped in an insulated sheet, then rested in a disposable pan. The salmon is given one more rub of the orange butter and then it too is wrapped in an insulated blanket and rested until service. With a combination of sugar maple and wild cherry woods on the salmon and ash, maple and cherry on the lamb, it doesn’t get any better than this for balanced flavor without being too smoky for our guests.
Chef wanted a few vegetable items wood fired as well so we started with red bell peppers right on the hot coals for a char finish. Next, sweet onion into a pan set on the insert opening of the grill. Once translucent and starting to brown, in go the Brussels sprouts and carrot. The plan is the ember roasted pepper slices will be added to the salad course while the Brussels sprout medley will go on top of the rice for a flavorful side to the lamb and salmon.
With 18 invited guests attending this intimate event for a cause, the tables are set with a Fall festive theme. Wine pairings are at the ready for the six courses as we welcome in our guests at 6pm for great conversation and a pre-dinner cocktail.
It certainly takes a Team to pull off an event like this. Special thanks go out to the Culinary Team of SmokinLicious® as well as the Kintner family and their business 360Rize who filmed the Dining for Smiles event preparations including the aerial view via drone. Special thanks to our service team, Monica, Renee, Allison, Ashley, and Jackie. It’s the giving of time that truly makes events like these. And of course, to Chef Vahl who composed an unforgettable menu of foods and flavors.
Be sure to see our upcoming series on the six-course meal for Dining for Smiles after the event preparations and how it all was received.